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Monday, October 28, 2013

"Conservatives" and Education: Why is local control such a radical idea?

The State of Indiana is meddling again. We have a solid Republican legislature, a Republican governor, and a Conservative state supreme court. Nevertheless, the state thinks it's perfectly alright to mandate exactly how local school boards do their business. They feel the need to reach into every classroom and have people who've never taught a single lesson in school decide what form of pedagogy works best. They have seized property taxes from local municipalities and used it to enforce their pet theories with an iron fist. All of this has been done, ostensibly, in the name of Conservatism.

Even talk radio hosts have jumped on this bandwagon. Both Limbaugh and Hannity tend to paint the lack of positive outcomes for certain students as a problem of the local schools, something changeable by legislative (i.e. state-level) means. Yet, in all other areas, they extol the virtues of governance at the most local level possible. They cite the overspending caused by unnecessary bureaucracy. They cite the unresponsiveness of a distant and cumbersome centralized government. They cite the wastefulness of collecting funds from local areas and then redistributing a fraction of that money back to the same places it was taken from. In all of this they are absolutely right. For some reason, there is a disconnect between the principles of true Conservatism and so-called Conservatives' opinions on public education.

Can it be said that state control of local school policies has improved our educational standing compared to the rest of the world? Certainly not, and these selfsame pundits are constantly citing the widening gulf in achievement between the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. They have bought wholesale into the Progressive idea that equalizing funding via state redistribution schemes will equalize achievement, yet we can all see that this notion has completely failed. The same people who deny that funding makes a difference in achievement are perfectly fine with norming funding so that all schools within a state spend the same amount per pupil.

I suppose that makes me either an extreme right-winger or a liberal, depending upon whether you consider public education to be exempt from the principles that govern the rest of Conservative thought. I, for one, don't think so. Let's keep the state's paws out of local schools. They've done enough harm already.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Shutdown and the Debt Clock

Listening to the radio the other day, I noted that Glenn Beck was ranting about the debt clock being unrealistically slow, as if to say that it's being slowed down to make Obama look good. Normally, the debt clock is running so fast that the numbers on the end are just an unreadable blur. To see what the debt is at any point in time, go to this site. Hit refresh every second or two and you can see our national debt go up by a few tens of thousands of dollars. It's great fun!

It then occurred to me that America was in the midst of a government "shutdown," meaning that only the essential functions of government were in operation -- the military, national security, etc. Because of this, our rate of expenditure was drastically lower than normal, so our debt was increasing very slowly. (Sadly, though, it was still increasing.)

I also noted that Wall Street was on the rise through most of the shutdown. Could it be that a less-intrusive government is actually good for the economy? Could it be that supply-side, free-market economics actually works? Though analysts were constantly reporting on Wall Street, none of them even brought up this question. Even FOX analysts reported on the numbers as if Wall Street was hoping the shutdown would end; no one got the real lesson: Less government = good business.

I realize that the Republicans lost the war of words over the shutdown. Well, it's hard to win a war when you're only fighting defensively. As usual, the Republican Party chose to respond to criticism rather than level any. They chose to allow President Obama to set the tone and framework of the argument. I should have seen every Republican leader in Washington angrily wagging a finger at the president, laying the blame for the shutdown squarely on his shoulders. He refused to even discuss the issue, holding the nation hostage over a pet program he himself admits needs to be improved. He refused to fund individual programs, sent one-by-one, in a tantrum of epic proportions. He failed to respect the Constitutional framework which grants the power of the purse to the House of Representatives. He ignored the will of the people, the vast majority of whom are dead-set against his ironically-named Affordable Health Care Act.

The Republican Party should have been spending wads of money on a barrage of attack ads on radio, television, and the Internet. Instead, they allowed themselves to be whipped into submission. Why do the spineless ones always get control of our party? How do they do it? You would think the assertive would be the logical winners in a power struggle. It makes no sense to me.

The debt clock will soon be a giant digital blur in the sky. It saddens me. For a brief time, we almost had our spending under control. It makes me wonder, why does the government even hire workers who are nonessential in the first place? Perhaps that is the most important issue, again ignored by the media, to come out of this whole debacle.

Monday, October 7, 2013

1 - 800 - F*** - YOU, America!

When I saw the Facebook post about Obamacare's 1-800 number, I thought to myself, "This must be a joke. It's too good to be true!"

So I dialed the number. However, I read the number wrong on the Facebook post and dialed out the complete phrase: 1-800-F***-YOU. To my surprise, I got through. It was an Obamacare hotline to connect you to the state agency responsible for exchanges. I decided to go through the phone menu to see if it was legit or just a prank.

I kept pressing the indicated buttons, and I kept getting further in the automated voice menu. I was soon instructed, "Para hablar en espaƱol, marque el uno." I was directed to press or say a number in order to get to the right option. I was instructed to say the name of my state to get to the correct agency. I was then presented with the option of speaking to a live representative. I'd heard enough. 1-800-F***-YOU will get you to the Obamacare exchanges hotline.

Can this be a coincidence? I doubt it. Either someone at the phone company is one hell of a social commentator, or someone in the Obama camp was trying to slip his true feelings in under the radar. Either way, to expect that nobody would discover something so outright hilarious, especially in the modern, online world, was unreasonable. It must have been a practical joker at the phone company.

This is resonating all over the Internet for obvious reasons. Considering that a majority of Americans opposes the law and even Democrats have stated it is a train wreck waiting to happen, people get it. The bill was passed by a narrow partisan vote using parliamentary process tricks to avoid even having a debate about it. We were told that Congress would have to pass it in order to see what was in it.

That's a lot like being asked to sign a contract before you can read it.

I was giddy when I got the news about the phone number. I had a grin about a mile wide. I'm smiling as I write this even now. Despite all the crap going on in Washington DC, at least there is some good news to report. Thank you, phone company guy! You made America's day!